Frankie thought of headless turkeys.
"I think more and more people each year prefer to just skip Thanksgiving and get to Black Friday," Michael grimaced as he sipped the mud, AKA, coffee.
They watched the waitress give them dirty looks and punch harder on her phone. Even Del had left town, leaving cold sandwiches and colder coffee for anyone 'unlucky' enough to stay in town.
"Hmm... all this time they were after me and you happen to be the true heir of the Demint Estate." They both looked out the diner window to the dark house on the hill.
"Who knows? Just because you were labeled, 'gizzards' and spent your beginning sitting next to peas and carrots in a freezer, you could be the older one. I don't want anything to do with that place, those people..."
"Who? Sarah and Sean? Sean knew nothing about us, and Sarah couldn't say. Molly? She didn't know about you."
Michael looked at Frankie. "She knew about you. She knew you didn't belong to her, yet, she told no one."
"It wasn't like that, Michael. Who could she tell? Sarah's father? Molly didn't know Sean was posing as Ms. Smith, the nurse who cared for Sarah all these years. She stayed in hiding. Your mother..." Michael glared at Frankie.
"Not my mother. I was just her ace, so she thought. Didn't work out that way for her, so she took it out on me." They both look at the burn marks on his arm. "I can't be angry towards the ignorant. Yet, I'm so damn mad..."
"I know, Michael. You found a sister, though. I can be your family."
"I can't love you, Frankie. I'm not going to care for you, cry for you, or hold your hand. I'm done with this town. Seems Sean and I have one thing in common. We've both been chasing ghosts. Bones told me about this place during her 'rages'. This is where my father, who was never my father, allegedly went to blackmail Molly. No one has seen him since. Bones assumed he had taken the money and left her with his spawn. The only reason she kept me all those years was the hope that John or Sarah would come back for me, for a price, though. She just became more bitter. I belong to no one. I suggest you get out of this town. Stop working at a puppy mill, and grow up."
Michael tossed a few wrinkled bills on the table, slid out of the booth and was gone. Frankie heard the old woman 'cough' but she took her time to compose herself. She didn't know where to go, where to turn.
"Grow up," Frankie said to herself.
"What?" the bored senior shouted.
"Nothing." Frankie slowly rose, buttoned her coat and walked out of Del's Diner.
"What happened to Sammie, anyway? Frankie asked Sean.
Sean watched her as she wrapped new strings on Sarah's old guitar. Frankie looked up. "You sure this is okay? You look like I'm shaking a baby."
Sean smiled. "Just brings back memories." He watched as she tuned the strings and then he turned towards his sleeping beauty. "Molly took Sammie, along with all the other 'experiments'. Sammie only knew how to wave. he may be able to just be a gerbil once again. I'm afraid madness, fed by Crock, changed so many animals. Singing cats, juggling rats... It was a pathetic display. And, they were the lucky ones. I never knew about the animals in the lab, although I assumed he was trying to find a cure for his daughter. I didn't speak up. I never confronted him. I wanted him to succeed, to bring her back as much as he did. Funny about Sammie. Les tried to be inconspicuous as he bought animals from Crock, trying to save them from being 'entertainment' or 'experiments'. Don't feel bad when you became suspicious of Les' disguises, and Crock woke up to what was going on under his nose. He had Charlie Chimp mug Les that night. That's how Sammie ended up here. A 'gift' from Crock."
Frankie played 'Corrina, Corrina. on the guitar, then Patti Smith's haunting ode to her husband, Fred.
Tears slid down Sean's face as Frankie's voice filled the room.
God, she loved him. Always had. Always will. She wanted to take his hand- tell him it will be okay. She was so tired. She knew he would be fine, now. She had hoped, someday, Sean would know. And here she was- her beautiful, precious child. She heard them laugh and her heart soared, just enough to let her fly away....
The crowd walked on the frozen path towards the lake. They held hands and wept as Sarah's ashes were scattered across the gray horizon.
In the almost deserted town of Manoomin, third tree from the bus stop, a man sobbed for what he had never found.
We love you so much. You truly are a miracle. I hope someday you can forgive the lies, the secrets, we kept from inside. If we had known about Michael... well, we just had no idea. Nurse Bones, Michael's 'gaurdian' knew that Sarah had found the truth when she caught her sneaking in Marone's lab one night. They fought, Sarah clinging tight to the 'specimen'. Bones stabbed Sarah with what we now know, was a needle filled with slow acting poison. Then Sarah threw a beaker of acid in Bones' face and escaped as Bones screamed for help. Sarah had come to me, asking for my help. I think she already knew her time was short. The night of the June storm, years later, Angus and I made a decision, one that would change our lives for the better. We don't regret that. Nine months later, you came into our lives. I waited. Sean waited, for the other miracle, the one where Sarah would wake up. In the meantime, we had heard about Demint's experiments. We used the tunnels to rescue some of Crock's 'work'. Just enough to not arouse suspicion. Lily Bean's father was a savior in that regard. he would sneak into Demint's lab and give a few animals a dose, which caused them to 'die, although, they were only in a deep sleep. In the morning, the Manoomin Resistance, usually found a sack, lying in the dumpster, the animals had been casually tossed by Crock's chimp, or Crock, himself. It was usually Les who retrieved the sack, rescued the nearly dead and brought them to our special clinic for treatment. Our neighbors took them in after treatment. They loved them, held them. Gave them the only affection they had ever known. If they once again became, 'normal' they were adopted out to good homes. If they didn't thrive, or never learned to trust, they remained in the court house basement, the largest room we could find for our clinic. We try to save them all, but we cannot mend broken hearts and trust.
We have no regrets about what we have done. We rejoiced when we could save one. We mourned when they could not come back to us.
We all thought it best if you did not know about all of the craziness. We never thought you'd come back to Manoomin after college, let alone work for Crock. In a way, we felt better, knowing you were caring for the animals, the ones in the 'holding zone,' destined to become experiments or entertainment, or the lucky ones that were sold to the public. Les tried to buy as many as he could, but you spotted him and it became too dangerous to go back in the shop.
I wish I had known about Bobby Lee and what had really happened that night. We just thought it was a romance gone that died. Don't be too hard on Bing. He did try to protect you. In his own idiotic way.
We knew we had to find Crock's chimp. After we heard he had left origami for you.
(To be continued...)